Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023
Shall Sections 27, 37, 39, 46, and 57 of the city Charter be amended pursuant to Ordinance 8587 to:
- Remove the requirement that signers to petitions appear personally before the city clerk;
- Clarify that state law governs the process for charter amendments;
- Change the timing provisions of filing a petition to 160 days before an election instead of 150 days;
- Change the number of days that the city clerk has to approve a petition to 15 days from 10 days, and
- Change the number of days that the city clerk has to verify petition signatures from 10 to 15?
What it means
Just what it says above: Should we amend the city’s charter to clarify rules for petitions to:
- Give the city clerk five extra days to process petitions
- Give petitioners 10 more days to gather signatures
- Allow folks to endorse candidates for mayor and city council from home (or at a location that is not in person, in front of the city clerk)
- Clarify that state law, not local ordinances, governs petitions that seek to change the city’s charter
Find more detailed information on proposed changes below.
Why you might want to vote for this
The deadline changes and the clarification of existing laws does not change the process. Signatures for petitions and candidates will still be verified by the city clerk (who will now have more time to do so).
Staffers have, in past years, worked weekends and overtime hours to complete the work. This change offers flexibility and possibly some (very small) savings in overtime pay.
The requirement for folks to endorse candidates for mayor and City Council (you need 25 signatures to make it on the ballot) in person at the municipal building can be limiting to people with mobility challenges, work daytime hours or are responsible for child care, since government offices are open only during daytime hours. By removing that barrier, this change could allow increased participation from certain demographics.
A change in deadline for petition filings will also give signature gatherers more time to, well, gather signatures. Any tool that makes direct democracy easier is likely to increase access to historically marginalized or fringe groups.
Clarifying language around charter petitions: This one has a whole fascinating history, but all you need to know is that it simply reinforces existing laws. Rules for petitions seeking to change Boulder’s charter, deadlines, signature requirements, etc., are set by state law, not the city’s. (This is a rare exception to Boulder’s home rule powers.)
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Why you might not want to vote for this
Not everyone is an unqualified fan of direct democracy. Critics have argued that giving committees more time to gather signatures might result in “weaker” (that is, less well-thought-out or less popular) issues gaining access to the ballot.
At the end of the day, it’s voters who have the final say on whatever is put before them — which, in a democracy, is how it should be.
Who is supporting and opposing?
There is no formal, external support or opposition to this measure. These changes were recommended by the City Council’s charter review committee.
Boulder County Republicans endorsed a “no” vote on this measure, arguing that in-person validation of candidates is more secure.
More detail on the charter language being amended
Section 27, Form of nomination petition
Removes this line: “personally appeared before me on the day and date set opposite such person’s name” from Section 27, so it will read:
“I hereby certify that each and every person whose signature appears on this petition was duly sworn as to the matters set forth in said petition, and signed such person’s name as petitioner for the purpose above set forth; and I further certify that I have examined the official registration list of persons qualified to vote at the next ensuing municipal election named in such petition; that (state the number) of the above petitioners appear as duly registered electors in the City of Boulder; and that to the best of my knowledge and belief this petition is sufficient.”
Section 37, Power to initiate charter amendments and legislation.
Removes “charter amendments”
And adds “The people shall have the power at their option to propose charter amendments in accordance with state law” to Section 37, which will read:
“The people shall have the power at their option to propose legislative ordinances, including ordinances granting franchises or privileges, and other legislative measures, and to adopt the same at the polls, such power being known as the initiative. A petition, meeting the requirements hereinafter provided and requesting the council to pass a legislative ordinance, resolution, order, or vote (all of these four terms being hereinafter included in the term “measure”) therein set forth or designated, shall be termed an initiative petition and shall be acted upon as hereinafter provided. The people shall have the power at their option to propose charter amendments in accordance with state law.”
Section 39, Filing of petition; protest.
Replaces “150 days before the election” with “160 days before the election” in Section 39, which will read as follows:
“By the last business day on or before 160 calendar days before the November election, the committee of petitioners shall submit its petition. The city clerk shall ascertain by examination the number of registered electors whose signatures are appended thereto, dated no more than 180 calendar days prior to the date of filing, and whether this number meets the requirements of?section 38A. By?140?calendar days before the November election the clerk shall attach to said petition a certificate showing the result of said examination. If by the city clerk’s certificate, of which notice in writing shall be given to one or more of the persons designated, the petition is shown to be insufficient, it may be amended within ten days from the date of said certificate by filing supplementary petition papers with additional signatures. The city clerk shall make like examination of the amended petition, with such examination being completed by?120?calendar days before the November election, and shall certify whether the petition is sufficient or insufficient on or before that day. If the clerk’s certificate shall show the same to be insufficient, the city clerk shall file the petition in the clerk’s office and shall notify each member of the committee of that fact. The final finding of the insufficiency of a petition shall not prejudice the filing of a new petition for the same purpose.”
Section 46, Certificate of petition.
Replaces “ten” with “fifteen” so Section 46 will read:
“Within fifteen days after the filing of the petition the city clerk shall ascertain whether or not the petition is signed by registered electors of the city of at least ten percent of the average number of voters in the previous two municipal candidate elections, and the clerk shall attach to such petition a certificate showing the result of such examination. If by the city clerk’s certificate the petition is shown to be insufficient, it may be amended within ten days from the date of said certificate by the filing of supplementary petition papers with additional signatures. The city clerk shall within ten days after such amendment make like examination of the amended petition and certify the result thereof. The City Clerk shall verify signatures to the extent reasonably possible by comparison with the election records of the Boulder County Clerk or the Secretary of State.”
Section 57, Petition may be amended or new petition made
Replaces “ten” with “fifteen” in Section 57:
“Within fifteen days from the filing of said petition the city clerk shall ascertain by examination thereof and of the registration books and election returns whether the petition is signed by the required number of registered electors and shall attach thereto a certificate showing the result of such examination. The clerk shall, if necessary, be allowed extra help.”
— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle